Very young children often suck their thumb or fingers for comfort, and while this habit might seem harmless, it can cause considerable damage to the facial bones of a child if it continues beyond the age of 4.

Young bones are quite soft and easily distorted and if a thumb sucking habit persists after their primary teeth have erupted, then it can change the shape of the jaws, causing significant problems with the way teeth are aligned. Bottle, dummy and finger sucking put backward forces on the jaws during one of the most important periods of rapid forward growth.


What are the Effects of Thumb Sucking?

Thumb sucking can lead to protrusive upper front teeth, as the teeth are pulled outwards by the action of sucking a thumb or finger. In addition, this causes the upper jaw to become elongated and narrower than normal as it is pulled outwards, developing a V shape. This can create problems with overcrowding and prevent the adult teeth erupting in the correct positions. The lower front teeth can also be affected, as the force of the thumb resting on them will push the teeth inwards. A child may also have problems learning to swallow properly as the tongue is thrust forwards during thumb sucking. If the tongue is displaced, this may affect their ability to pronounce certain sounds, requiring speech therapy to correct.

How Can I Stop My Child from Sucking Their Thumb?

Positive reinforcement tends to work best, particularly as thumb sucking is a comforting action that children tend to turn to when upset. Instead of scolding them, reward your child with lots of praise or a hug whenever they manage to resist thumb sucking, or you can set up a progress chart to show how well they are doing with perhaps a small reward when they meet certain goals.

What About Dental Treatment to Help Stop Thumb Sucking?

Dr Mariola Prokop offers myofunctional exercises to stop thumb or finger sucking, while a range of appliances can help prevent this behaviour. The appliances make it awkward for your child to suck their thumb and can quickly break this habit.

How is Any Damage to the Teeth and Jaws Corrected?

If thumb or finger sucking has already changed the shape of your child’s jaws or the position of their teeth, these problems can be corrected through the use of orthodontic appliances that can widen narrow upper arches and correct protrusive teeth. It is best to book a consultation with Dr Prokop so any problems can be diagnosed and a suitable treatment plan devised.